WASHINGTON A senior FBI official said on Tuesday that the agency has not confirmed widely held suspicions that North Korea is behind the unprecedented cyber attack on Sony's Hollywood studio.
"There is no attribution to North Korea at this point," Joe Demarest, assistant director with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's cyber division, said while speaking on a panel at a cybersecurity conference sponsored by Bloomberg Government.
The comment casts at least some doubt on the widely held belief that North Korea has definitely been determined to be the culprit in the massive attack on the Hollywood studio, leaving room for other theories to emerge.
Cybersecurity researchers who have analyzed the malicious software used in the attack say that technical indicators suggest North Korean hackers launched the attack. People close to separate investigations being conducted by Sony and the government have told Reuters that North Korea is a principal suspect, yet a North Korean diplomat has denied that his nation is involved.
Demarest also said that there has been no confirmation of government involvement to date, though he did not elaborate.
FBI spokesman Joshua Campbell said the agency is continuing its search for the attackers but had no additional information.
Demarest's brief comments were the first public remarks by a senior FBI official about its investigation into the unprecedented attack on U.S. soil. Hackers stole vast quantities of data, then used malicious software to wipe data on computers, shutting down much of the Sony Corp unit's network for more than a week.
FBI representatives plan to meet with Sony employees on Wednesday to provide them training in cybersecurity practices, Campbell said.
"As part of our commitment to helping private industry protect against the threat posed by malicious cyber criminals, the FBI routinely provides briefings on cyber security awareness," he said.
(Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Alden Bentley and Jonathan Oatis)